Presidential Speech on Lockdown, and the Challenge of Staying at Home in Nigeria

Presidential Speech on Lockdown, and the Challenge of Staying at Home in Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari wholeheartedly thanks all Nigerians for their patience, resolve and strong determination to defeat the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

He, however, asked Nigerians to exercise more patience and stay at home as the battle continues.

The President said:

“We realize that today, there will be sons and daughters unable to visit their parents, and elders that are isolated from young ones. And there will be those who live day-to-day, eating as they earn, who face real and present suffering.

“No elected government could ask more of the citizens of the country that elected them than today we ask of you. But we must ask you – once more – to observe restrictions on movement where they are in place, and follow the instructions of our scientists and medical advisers: stay home, wash your hands, save lives.

“The freedoms we ask you to willingly forsake today will only last as long as our scientific advisers declare they are necessary. But they are essential – world over – to halt and defeat the spread of this virus.

“For those who suffer most egregiously, the Government has announced multiple measures to assist: 70,000 tonnes of grain is being released from the National Strategic Grain Reserves for distribution to those in most need; distribution of small cash payments are also being made, and will continue to be made by the federal government in the states and local government areas.

“We ask you to listen and follow public announcements via the mass media for instructions as to how to receive this government support – and learn of more public assistance in the coming days.

“All that the Government is asking you to endure is because nowhere in the world today is there any known way of defeating this pandemic. There is no vaccine. And that means there are choices to be made: between continuing as usual, or accepting the restrictions even when they come with unintended consequences.

“But at this darkest hour, it remains our duty to offer you the full and unvarnished truth: This is a global pandemic. 210 countries and territories across the globe are affected. We cannot expect others to come to our assistance. No one is coming to defeat this virus for us.

“Instead, the defeat of the virus in our country will be in our hands, alone. We cannot wait for others. We can only depend on ourselves now. And so we must – and we will – end this outbreak ourselves as Nigerians, together”.

The challenge following this statement has been the federal government’s inability to live up to expectation in making food provision for the stay-at-home. Though there have been some intervention measures like the N20,000 cash distribution to poorest Nigerians. The palliative has been marred by inconsistencies that the National Assembly had to summon the Minister of Finance.

On Saturday last week, the national assembly had faulted the method of dispatch of the fund. The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs has been tasked with the distribution of the fund and other provisions. The Ministry has embarked on cash handout to individuals, which has been widely condemned.

The Finance Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said the majority of the beneficiaries are unbanked and there is no other way to send them the money except through cash.

However, Senate President Ahmed Lawan said the method is questionable and needs to be redefined.

“I think time has come for us to redefine the implementation of the Social Intervention Programme, probably going out to communities to give them N20,000 per person might not be the best way to go. It is still an effort, but I think we need a better approach that will be more efficient,” Lawan said.

The cash distribution method has been criticized, and the entire programme accused of nepotism and corruption even though the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, said they used community leaders to identify the most vulnerable households who deserve the money.

Other measures include the strategic distribution of grain across the 36 states of Nigeria. But that is yet to take effect even though Nigerians are two weeks into the lockdown and it certainly appears that it will be extended as the cases of coronavirus keeps increasing.

There are so far, 318 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, and many contacts are yet to be traced.

The most affected state in Nigeria, Lagos, has failed to provide it residents with food to enable them stay at home. Consequently, many have been forced to leave home looking for food.

President Buhari said there will be more palliatives through the Social Intervention Programme, but the concern lies on whether the provision and sharing formula will be efficient enough to reach everyone in need.

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